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Avian Flu – What You Need to Know

April 7, 2022

The Avian Influenza (“bird flu”) virus infects domestic poultry and wild birds such as geese, ducks, and shore birds. This is “bird flu” season and there have been several reports of Avian Influenza in wild and commercial poultry settings across Ontario, and we have had one infected Canada goose in our area. The Province of Ontario is working with local, other provincial, federal, and international authorities to monitor and respond to situations as they arise.

This virus does not easily cross from birds to humans, and the current strain of the virus has been listed as lower than normal concern for spread to people. The exact mode of transmission from birds to people is not known. Most human cases of avian influenza have been traced to direct contact with live or dead infected poultry or their droppings. High risk activities include caring for diseased birds, dressing birds that died from the disease, consuming duck’s blood or possibly undercooked poultry, and handling birds involved in cockfighting. The handling of dead birds is considered a lower risk activity and has not been implicated in transmission of the virus to date. There is no evidence to suggest that properly cooked game birds are a source of avian influenza infection for people.

Please call Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre at 1-800-567-2033 to report the finding of sick or dead wild birds. It is very important that people avoid handling live or dead wild birds. If contact with wild birds is unavoidable, wear gloves or use a doubled plastic bag and avoid contact with blood, body fluids and feces. You should then wash your hands with soap and warm water. The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has information on safety principles for small flock owners. These recommendations can be found here.

If you have handled a sick wildlife bird or poultry then watch for symptoms of Avian Influenza that can range from very mild to severe. It is important to tell your doctor if you have any of these signs and if you have been in close contact with poultry or wild birds in the past 10 days;

  • Fever , cough, sore throat , runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle and/or body aches, headache, tiredness
  • Conjunctivitis (red eyes)
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Diarrhea, nausea, vomiting or seizures

For more information about avian flu or handling wild or domestic birds, visit our website.


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